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The 7 Ways That People Search the Web 239

Posted by Zonk
from the seven-stages-of-search dept.
SpaceAdmiral writes "After the recent release of AOL search logs, Paul Boutin used the site splunkd.com to analyse the logs. His analysis groups searchers into seven categories: The Pornhound, the Manhunter, the Shopper, the Obsessive, the Omnivore, the Newbie, and the Basketcase. My favorite example search is in the Basketcase category: 'i hurt when i think too much i love roadtrips i hate my weight i fear being alone for the rest of my life.'"
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The 7 Ways That People Search the Web

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  • Moo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) * on Monday August 14, 2006 @02:50PM (#15904727) Homepage Journal
    The seven ways that people post on Slashdot.

    The First Poster - Although this phenominon has been addressed and has somewhat lessened, there are still echoes of "First Post". These people wait on a "Mysterious Furure" story as post stupidities just to get in first.

    The Fisher - These posters, rarely named Bobby, check-in with a kingly posts to generate replies and nothing more. Their posts, perhaps at first, seem to make sense, but on closer review contain mnay misstakes, intentionally designed to garner replies.

    The old-timer - These posters, who hang around slashdot land, have forgotten to move on. They post just to show off their low slashdot id. This makes some druel, and others comment that low id does not mean more intelligent. However, they're all wrong anyway.

    The reposter - Reposters wait for old stories to come up again and find modded-up comments from the old stories to repost. If this is the first time such a story is up, they post a bunch of old buzzwords that realign synergistic paradigm shifts.

    The soap stander - Soap-Standers have what to say, and don't care where they say it, such as about why Bush is beery good, and that the UN and its anonymous leader are drunkards, and no amount of coffee will help.

    The idiot - Idiots can't count, post moronic comments, and quickly type in useless garbage to fill in a little more space.

    • Who is asked to slow down every now and then.
    • by Riding Spinners (994836) on Monday August 14, 2006 @02:55PM (#15904772)

      You forgot number seven. Should it be a troll? Or perhaps you forgot Poland?

      Beyond your ability to count, the article seems quite interesting. My PhD supervisor made an intesresting comment about Google the other day: he said that people at Google must have very interesting information concerning the trends of "common knowledge," this is, before September, 11, 2001 a Google search for "september wtc" would yield totally different results, which surely will show the most "common" of things that people was searching for.

      Likewise, if you searched for "Katrina" in Google before August 2005, you maybe ended in the page of someone named like that.

      These are basic examples of informaiton that can be obtained with the "time" factor of the Google logs. Remember that time gives another dimension to your data, which lets you extract more information from it. Something among tht lines of image-pattern recognition, it is easier to match patterns from a moving image than from a static image.

    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday August 14, 2006 @02:56PM (#15904784) Homepage Journal
      And the pedantic bastard - who will point out that you posted six categories instead of seven, and misspelled "drool."
    • by Vaystrem (761)
      "The old-timer - These posters, who hang around slashdot land, have forgotten to move on. They post just to show off their low slashdot id. This makes some druel, and others comment that low id does not mean more intelligent. However, they're all wrong anyway."

      Crap someone has figured us out.
    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Funny)

      by bano (410) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:13PM (#15904952) Homepage Journal
      The old-timer - These posters, who hang around slashdot land, have forgotten to move on. They post just to show off their low slashdot id. This makes some druel, and others comment that low id does not mean more intelligent. However, they're all wrong anyway.

      Thats me, and I think your wrong about being wrong.
      • by Chacham (981) *
        Thats me, and I think your wrong about being wrong.

        Two wrongs don't make a right, but three lefts do.
    • by daniil (775990)
      ...and then there's Chacham.
    • The Spellchecker - Posts to note that the parent has dreamed up the worst spelling of drool ever.

    • Re:Moo (Score:3, Informative)

      by raddan (519638)
      You forgot The Pedant. By the way, you spelled drool [wikipedia.org] wrong.
    • The idiot - Idiots can't count, post moronic comments, and quickly type in useless garbage to fill in a little more space.

      In an attempt to help you decide which type you are, I have decided to proof your post.

      s/phenominon/phenomenon/

      s/"Mysterious Furure" story as post stupidities/"Mysterious Future" story and post stupidities/

      s/check-in with a kingly posts/check in with a kingly post/ (or s/check-in with a kingly posts/check in with kingly posts/)

      mnay misstakes: I assumed this was intentional. See? I a

      • by Chacham (981) *
        Heh. Thanx.

        s/phenominon/phenomenon/

        I actually figured i spelled that incorrectly, but i forgot to check it before i posted.

        s/"Mysterious Furure" story as post stupidities/"Mysterious Future" story and post stupidities/

        No excuse for that one. :)

        s/check-in with a kingly posts/check in with a kingly post/ (or s/check-in with a kingly posts/check in with kingly posts/)

        That happened because i rewrote it to have a stupid chess reference. I didn't double-check the rewrite closely enough.

        mnay misstakes: I assumed t
        • I thought you only fit into about four of the six :D

          If you care about your spelling, you should use a spell checker, you can get them for all major web browsers these days :D

    • My number is lower than yours, newbie!
    • by jbarr (2233)
      We do NOT hang around just to show off our low slashdot id's...er wait...oh never mind.
    • by bcat24 (914105)
      I guess you're an old-timer, Mr. Three Digit UID. :)

      (Hmm, I just made a useless comment to fill space. I must be an idiot.)
    • by PMuse (320639)
      The karma whore - If some one else has already block quoted TFA, [slate.com] he can always be counted on for a link to wikipedia. [wikipedia.org]

      +h3 1337-5p34k!|\|6 h4x0r - vvh4+3v3r !5 541) !|\| 7331 50|\|)5 pr0f0|\|).

      The troll - The evolution of this species has more to do with Godwin's Law than Darwin's.

      The /. humorist - All his post are belong to his welcome new Natalie-Portman-covered-in-hot-grits overlords.

      The tag-along - Though incapable of original thought, this poster can flog any subject through mimicry until all humor and
  • On that note (Score:5, Interesting)

    by smclean (521851) on Monday August 14, 2006 @02:56PM (#15904785) Homepage
    Somethingawful posted what is presumably the first part in a series of gold from the AOL search logs: http://www.somethingawful.com/index.php?a=4016 [somethingawful.com] These would definitely fit in the 'basketcase' category...
  • Is this like a Slashdot poll where we whine about missing options?
    Where does Cowboy Neal fit into the 7?

    Are politicians their own category, or are they basketcases, or Pornhounds?
  • by Mignon (34109) <satan@programmer.net> on Monday August 14, 2006 @02:58PM (#15904803)
    I know why you're here, Neo. I know what you've been doing... why you hardly sleep, why you live alone, and why night after night, you sit by your computer. You're looking for him. I know because I was once looking for the same thing. And when he found me, he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for an answer.

    So was Neo a manhunter, an obsessive, or just an omnivore?

  • Categories (Score:2, Funny)

    by The Zon (969911)
    I'm not sure what category I fit in. I live in a padded cell, and just used AOL search for the first time to obsessively shop for Manhunter porn while eating a meat-and-vegetable stew.
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:00PM (#15904833) Journal
    I know that I often can't recall websites I've been to once but want to revisit. I will, however, often remember the search terms that got me there -- sometimes very specific search terms, since I've narrowed it down from my first wide-net search.

    For some reason I stubbornly don't use bookmarks often (as when you have too many, they quickly become worthless) so that obscure search term might be in my profile 300 times over the course of a year if it's a site that I visit daily from the office.

    Then again, I post on Slashdot a ton... I'm sure it's pretty obsessive anyway.
    • I know that I often can't recall websites I've been to once but want to revisit. I will, however, often remember the search terms that got me there -- sometimes very specific search terms, since I've narrowed it down from my first wide-net search.

      The thing thatgets me is when I find something via search, only to forget to bookmark it, then forget exactly what combination got me there. I've noted Google has a way of looking at your past searches (beta, of course) and that's helpful, although scary to thi

      • Well, I turn off the option to recall search terms, and of course my browser is set to recall no history. Luckily I'm pretty good at remembering the process that got me to the page I was looking for.

        The one that kills me is the website that is huge and poorly organized. I will remember the main website, but damn if I can remember how to get to the particular page I need... or if I really want to navigate through six slow-loading pages to get there.

        although scary to think people will take that informati

    • My husband does the same thing. Especially with the nice Google search in the browser now - for instance, he just puts in "amortization calculator" rather than bookmarking his favorite one b/c he knows it's one of the first google hits for that search.
  • by Billosaur (927319) * <wgrotherNO@SPAMoptonline.net> on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:00PM (#15904841) Journal

    Ok, a lot of this AOL search data is quite amusing, in a sad, pathetic way. Too many people are having their jollies over it, while secretly being scared someone's going to get a peek at their searching record when Google finally loses its mind and makes the data available. It's easy to laugh, and be downright frightened, but in the end, we type our searches in, click the button and don't give it another thought. People wish to judge (myself included); it was a survival instinct in a far distant past and now it manifests itself as a morbid curiosity with the lives of other people.

    People come in all colors, size, and mental states, AOL users undoubtedly more so. SO in their you'll find your fair share of freaks or freak wannabes, but mostly you'll just find people trying to find out things. What makes them freakish is not what they type in, but what they do with the information.

    • The one thing Pornhunter's search terms are probably missing is him googling his own name.

      Admit it, which one of you never googled their own name?
      • Googling yourself (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Kelson (129150) *

        Admit it, which one of you never googled their own name?

        But if you've googled yourself and other people, it's a little trickier to determine from the list which one is you.

        Though if the list of names contains 25 celebrities and "Joe Smith," it might not be hard to narrow down. At that point, you're the guy in the red shirt who beamed down to the hostile planet with Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty. Yeah, the monsters could kill anyone in the party, but it doesn't take much effort to guess who it'll be.

      • which one of you never googled their own name?

        Sweet Jesus, not while I was searching for porn!

  • The 8th way (Score:3, Funny)

    by daranz (914716) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:00PM (#15904843)
    The people who switch Tor nodes for every search they perform, so that later, then don't end up having articles written about them calling them weirdos and porn-freaks. Sheesh, what's wrong with horses?
  • by cant_get_a_good_nick (172131) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:01PM (#15904846)
    "For we are all the Pornhound, the Manhunter, the Shopper, the Obsessive, the Omnivore, the Newbie, and the Basketcase, sincerely, the Breakfast Club"

    Probably most people on this board are too young to remember anyway....
  • The article is written by someone that works for splunk and has a bunch of links to a splunk server (currently responding too slowly to use) to show you the logs, and pointlessly mentions numerous times how he clicked something in Splunk(tm)(C) to get some results...
  • by ThomMust (174974) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:03PM (#15904867) Homepage
    ... it is nothing compared to the tremendous fallout that would befall the Interweb, should AOL ever unleash accidentally almost 13 years of collected AOL chatroom dialogue. It's one thing to see the search strings of User #24601, but quite another to see just what he says when emboldened by conversational anonymity. Of course, AOL would say now that they don't have that kind of data, that they haven't been logging chat since the earliest days of version 2.0 ... but come on, would you throw away all of that beautiful demographic fodder?
    • As someone who remembers when they claimed to stop logging (which was an indication that hey, maybe loging conversations was a good idea), I could only hope that such an archive both exists and makes it way public. I'd love to have access to logs that were stored long ago on a hard drive far, far away. As someone who has whole CDs full of logs, it'd be great (to those who used the service back then) to have access to this kind of great historical crap. Then again, it's also kinda scary and dementedly evil.
      • If they really log it, I really hope they use a compression that checks the redundancy of messages, considered all the porn spam bot messages. Oh well that probably mostly affects AIM (to the point there isn't even any conversation ever going on anymore, I recently tried, blocked all the bots and waited, and lurking during half an hour all you could see was a couple of 14 year old girls saying hello and leaving as soon) but if they log AOL chatrooms why wouldn't they log AIM too?

        This being said, I'll never

  • Very interesting... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Skynet (37427) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:07PM (#15904899) Homepage
    Although AOL represents a certain niche market. i.e. it's heavily skewed towards n00bs.

    I wonder if a similar Google sample would show different results or identify other archetypes?

    I definitly fall into the "Omnivore" type. I would imagine most Slashdotters do.

    Actually, maybe the Basket Case one is a better fit for most Slashdotters.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:07PM (#15904901)
    From TFA: The searches of AOL user No. 672368, for example, morphed over several weeks from "you're pregnant he doesn't want the baby" to "foods to eat when pregnant" to "abortion clinics charlotte nc" to "can christians be forgiven for abortion."

    That, right there, tells you why we need to worry about "Uncle Sam" having access to *everyone's* search logs - search terms alone contain an implicit picture of what should be some of the most private aspects of your life. Now imagine if user number 672368 turns out to be, say, John McCain's daughter, and Karl Rove got his hands on this just before the Republican presidential primaries...

    what do you think would happen? what do you think http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_McCarthy [wikipedia.org]Joe McCarthy could have done with this kind of data? Write to your elected official and ask them these questions, and what safeguards they are putting in place to prevent any such abuse - and tell them you will be voting this fall. Then call your local news channel, and ask them to run a story on it, and ask the candidates for comment. The big networks won't start a story like this, but if a small station is lucky enough to get a clip of a politician stumbling over an answer, it'll be syndicated faster than you can say "feeding frenzy".

    (and for those of you naive enough to think that Karl Rove doesn't have access to the equivalent government databases through some back-room contact or another, I have a bridge you might be interested in buying...)
    • by ewhac (5844) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:30PM (#15905111) Homepage Journal
      From TFA: The searches of AOL user No. 672368, for example, morphed over several weeks from "you're pregnant he doesn't want the baby" to "foods to eat when pregnant" to "abortion clinics charlotte nc" to "can christians be forgiven for abortion."

      That, right there, tells you why we need to worry about "Uncle Sam" having access to *everyone's* search logs - [ ... ]

      Write to your elected official and ask them these questions, and what safeguards they are putting in place to prevent any such abuse - and tell them you will be voting this fall. Then call your local news channel, and ask them to run a story on it, and ask the candidates for comment. [emphasis mine]

      Uh, no.

      If you push the "mainstream media" (which is a profit-seeking sensationalism machine) to run with this, the story will not be, "The Government can spy on the most intimate details of your life." Rather, it will be, "Searching for The Searcher: Hunt for Abortion-Seeker Grips Nation." Unholy amounts of money and media resources will be devoted, not to checking Government excesses and lawlessness and preserving the integrity of the Republic, but instead to trying to determine the identity of this mysterious woman, abandoned by a lothario, and left to agonize over the moral quandary of leading an exemplary Christian life (whatever that might mean) and terminating a pregnancy she knows she can't handle. The media circus around this story would make the stories surrounding Terri Schiavo look like a 30-second Public Service Announcement.

      Face it: It's the perfect American "news" soap opera. And it also has the beauty of urgency: "Can she be found before she has the abortion?" (Never mind the fact these search queries are fairly old.)

      So, no. You don't want to push this in front of CNN. They will spin it completely the wrong way. Why? Because that's what'll make them the most money. And the poor unfortunate woman in the middle of all this will be totally fucked. Again.

      Schwab

    • How in blue blazes is that post +Funny?

  • what we need to know is how much 1 type cross section with one another.

    Example : Obsessive Pornhounds(typical behaviour: spends inordinate times in usenet, loves tenta..)

    or Manhunter Shopper(typical behaviour : posts on craiglists under 10 different profiles, e/n queen at somethingcrappy or somethinsomething)

    or perhaps Newbie Basketcase (typical behaviour: reloads /. like crazy, trying to desperately be NOT terrible)

    or heck maybe Newbie Pornhounds or Basketcase Omnivore..

    Purely in the name of research of co
  • I thought this was going to be a George Carlin skit.

    In a way, it sort of is.
  • Assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dbc001 (541033) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:13PM (#15904942)
    This guy makes a lot of assumptions in his analysis. I often search for a single topic multiple times - not out of obsession, but to refine my search. Sometimes I didn't get what I was looking for the first time, so I'll go back and sift through the 2nd and 3rd pages. Sometimes I search again because I can't remember where the best page was. Each new search for the same topic may lead me to change my search target - at first I might be looking to buy a product at a major retailer, only to realize later that it might be available used. These are all reasons to repeat a search that have nothing to do with obsession. Also, the author may have labelled someone as "Obsessive" when they are searching for "texas real estate" when in fact they work in the real estate industry.

    The article is an interesting read but I'm not buying into his category system.
    • Not to mention that I sometimes find patterns in search results and re-search to refine it. I may be searching for reviews on the Honda Civic, but be getting a lot of dealership sites, so I'd go back and exclude "dealership", and whatnot, until the search comes out with a good signal-to-noise ratio.

  • ... the first link in the article is to a porn site.

    The porn site has now been slashdotted.

    Get off my born, bitches!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I think the interpretation of why users google the same words over and over again is wrong. It's not obsessive or OCD at all.

    For me, I will goggle words that I know that will contain links that I want to see, but never remember to bookmark. It's much easier to just go to a search engine and type a keyword and scroll for the link in the first 10 hits, rather than go through your hundreds of bookmarks to find exactly the one you're looking for.
    • You've hit upon something there. Perhaps 90% of my wife's usage of the internet is visiting 4 sites: Moviefone, Hotmail, MSN games, and IMDB. Does she use the convenient bookmark function... nope! Instead, her preferred solution is to home page Google and search for the sites there. I've explained the inherent wastefulness of using search for something where just typing into the Firefox's address bar will do the trick... but no dice.

      I do have fun with it and occasionally, block Google on my DNS and watch as
      • My wife uses firefox's history almost exlusively to find sites she's visited before. Like yours, she doesn't bookmark anything, but then, I don't bookmark anything either. I just have an uncanny knack of remembering URLs.
  • The search data released by AOL could be great for research purpose. Even a stupid person will never release such kind of data. This seems very strategic.
    If you analyze the search data you'll know that video market is growing rapidly. Search engines are surely driven by porn market. It explains why google was fighting for that data. It could have bought down their revenue. As search engines are useful for the development of internet, user data is useful for the development of future product because you k
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:27PM (#15905078)
    "Do niggers have x-ray vision" Truly frightening. Also note the large religious influence in a lot of the searches.
  • My favorite example search is in the Basketcase category: 'i hurt when i think too much i love roadtrips i hate my weight i fear being alone for the rest of my life.'"

    I don't know for who I feel more sorry. The people that use that as a search string, or the ones that find it enjoyable.
    • I feel sorry for the guys who develop a search engine capable of answering such a search string correctly.
  • by fm6 (162816) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:44PM (#15905227) Homepage Journal
    ...that nobody knows how to spell "beastiality"?
  • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:46PM (#15905247)
    Selected highlights from this poor user [aolstalker.com]:

    losing your virginity
    signs that a woman may be pregnant
    how long does it take for the symptoms to show up that you are pregnant
    can you not get pregnant by having sex without a condom
    missed period
    negative home pregnancy test and positive blood test why
    christian love
    how to love your enemies
    inmate lookup at rikers island
  • Big news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by poliopteragriseoapte (973295) on Monday August 14, 2006 @03:53PM (#15905296)

    The analysis denotes an astoundingly low level of understanding of how people actually use the web. What the author is seeing is absolutely normal and obvious. The only abnormal thing is his surprise.

    The Pornhound. The fact that people search for porn on the web must rank as the discovery of the year!

    The Manhunter. Who ever bookmarks other people's web pages? I just type the people's names in Google, and most people I know do just that. We are all manhunters I guess.

    The Shopper. Same as above, who uses bookmarks? If I am interested in a treo 700 and I type it 37 times in 3 days, this just means that I find it more convenient to type treo 700, then select from the search results, that bookmark the result pages that I am interested in. And this is reasonable: why should I create bookmarks that become useless once I do buy the treo?

    The Obsessive. See above. People that search often for A are simply people who don't bother creating a bookmark for some results about A. Big discovery.

    The Omnivore. Ok, so when the pattern is complex, the author gives up. This is a really informative category.

    The Newbie. Again, it must rank as one of the big discoveries of the year that there are newbies on AOL...

    The Basket Case. This seems to be a repeat of "the omnivore", except that the author found these queries weirder.

    Who posted this on Slashdot? It's not interesting research at all! It's junk!

    • "Funny"? Mods on crack again. This is "Insightful". I was just about the make the same observation about "The Obsessive" myself. It seems the author just selected the most sensationalist interpretations of the data he could.
  • The Pirate (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Experiment 626 (698257) on Monday August 14, 2006 @04:13PM (#15905440)

    While the pr0n crowd gets its own category, it would seem those who use the Internet to illicitly acquire copyrighted materials would simply fall into a subcategory of the Obsessive, and not an important enough one to be mentioned in the article. What of those brave souls who search for cracks, keygens, nocd patches, torrents, dvd rippers, and the like? Are they less prevalant than some would have us believe, or perhaps because AOL appeals to a less tech-savvy demographic, its searches might underrepresent them.

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Monday August 14, 2006 @04:27PM (#15905539)
    Okay, the bit about Omnivores who hit IMDb all the time hits a little too close to home here. :)

    I use IMDb as much as I use Google. A merging of those two would be quite convenient for me.

    Oh, and let's throw in Wikipedia while we're at it. While it may not be as accurate as a paper-published encyclopedia, it's still a zillion times more accurate than the average one-off webpage you're likely to find on any given topic.
    • Oh, and let's throw in Wikipedia while we're at it.

      No need. Wikipedia articles consistently come out at the top of Google searches, especially if your search term is an article title. Next time Wikipedia is having a fundraiser, Google should just give them as much money as they're looking for, which is typically pocket change as far as Google is concerned. I'd bet they drive a great deal of traffic Wikipedia's way, and are therefore responsible for much of their server load.

    • Get a browser with a keyword feature (firefox, konqueror, probably opera). Want google? New tab, gg:something. Movie? imdb:something. Perl module? cpan:something. Repository of All Human Knowledge? wp:something. :)
  • Self-selection (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday August 14, 2006 @05:21PM (#15906029) Homepage
    Notice one key factor here: These people all use AOL. That's naturally going to self-select your data towards certain segments of the population which might exhibit different inclinations than rest of the group.
  • by not-enough-info (526586) <forwardtodevnull@gmail.com> on Monday August 14, 2006 @05:55PM (#15906346) Homepage Journal
    And now, for a baseless comparison:
    {
            The Pornhound: Lust,
            the Manhunter: Envy,
            the Shopper: Greed,
            the Obsessive: Gluttony,
            the Omnivore: Sloth,
            the Newbie: Anger,
            the Basketcase: Pride
    };
    *This is my post-RTFA relational array.

    My favorite example search is in the Basketcase category: 'i hurt when i think too much i love roadtrips i hate my weight i fear being alone for the rest of my life.'"
    I don't know... those kinda look like lyrics...

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